chasing perfection

“You think you’re perfect. But you’re not.”

I wanted to turn right around and cry, “I know! You’ve got it exactly! Can you fix it?”

But this was my physical therapist, and he was talking about my posture. So now I’ve got two therapists: one physical, one emotional, both working on my perfection issues.

Academically, I know the trouble with trying to be perfect: there is no perfect so you end up in a constant state of exhaustion, striving to please yourself and the people around you. It’s like running a race at full speed with no finish line. Eventually you die like that Greek marathon guy.

I am so much better at this perfection thing than I used to be. But I still need a little work. I mean, clearly I’m not perfect. The other day, I realized long after my shower that I had only shaved one leg. And clearly, I’ll never be perfect (see above, re: non-existence of same). So, why not stop trying already? And the little nagging voice pipes up: “because if you strive to be perfect, you may not get there but at least you’ll be better than if you strive to be average!”

Ah, but I say back to the voice, pretty good is actually attainable, so why don’t I strive for that, actually make it, and feel accomplished rather than like a huge loser? What do you have to say to that voice, huh? Where’d you go, voice?

Actually, it’s not that easy. The voice is pretty insistent. But she lies.

Consider that I get tired just thinking about doing the simplest, every day things, like cleaning my kitchen. Because I can’t just tidy up. I have to take everything out of the cabinets and scrub them down, and organize everything as I put it all back. And get out a toothbrush to get that icky gunk out of the corners. And then I realize that I have to take three days off work to find enough time for all that. So what happens? I don’t do it. At all. And instead of a sparkling kitchen, I have dirty countertops and dishes stacked in the sink. If only I was striving for pretty good, I could just do the dishes, sweep up, and save the cabinet reorganization for a rainy day. But instead, every time I see my dirty kitchen, I beat myself up just a little bit more. Lather, rinse, and repeat for everything else around me that I feel like I should be doing.

Striving for perfection doesn’t get me to better than pretty good. It gets me nowhere, with an added stress bonus. And a particularly delightful side benefit is that it all leaves me feeling insecure. Because I’m not living up to my own expectations. The expectations being that I should be perfect. How fucked up is that? I’m completely screwing myself over. I would never hold anyone else up to such an unachievable standard, and yet I happily do it to myself.

And to add just a little more to the top of my toppling neuroses, now that I realize all of this, I’m impatient with myself because I’m not doing a more perfect job of getting over it. Which would be funny if it just wasn’t so damn ridiculous.

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